Published: September 2, 2003
The Lyme Art Association will present “Plein Air Coast to Coast,” the East Coast premier exhibition of 30 signature members of the Plein Air Painters of America (PAPA), a prestigious organization of contemporary artists primarily from the West and Southwest. The exhibition will be on view from September 14 through October 18.
An opening reception on Saturday, September 13, from 5 to 7 pm, will feature a Fresh Paint Auction of 12 PAPA instructors who captured the Connecticut landscape as they conducted weeklong plein air painting workshops for 150 other artists prior to the auction. The donation is $10 at the door, and proceeds benefit the Lyme Art Association’s exhibition and art education programs.
PAPA, founded in California in 1986, constitutes a “fellowship of professional artists dedicated to the historic tradition of painting directly from life,” according to the group’s mission statement. “Through this approach of first-hand observation, our members strive to more fully explore and respond to the timeless beauty that surrounds us. We promote a heightened visual appreciation of the world by sharing with the public our combined knowledge and experience through workshops and exhibitions of the highest caliber.”
The PAPA artists, who hail from Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Colorado, Nevada and Washington, have traveled worldwide and are accustomed to the constant pressure of changing light, and the rugged terrain of mountains and deserts, sometimes encountering snow squalls or worse.
One painter was plagued by fire ants while painting in Texas; another was attacked by a wild turkey. Matt Smith of Scottsdale, Ariz., was stalked by a bear. Joan Marron-LaRue of Tucson, Ariz., was threatened by packs of dogs while painting in Russia. Even the annual paint-out at Catalina Island is fraught with warnings of rattlesnakes, wild buffalo and boar. Still, as Smith attests, “If you want to capture a blizzard, you have to be out there standing in it. A photograph will not do it justice.”
Presumably, the visiting artists will have a less threatening experience painting the Connecticut shore and river valley. Painting sites include the villages and marinas of Old Lyme and Essex, points along the Connecticut River, the Lieutenant River, marshes and estuaries, Long Island Sound, Ashlawn Farm and Harkness Park in Waterford. Fortunately, too, this landscape and “Lyme Light” that so attracted the early Lyme Colony artists in 1899, is still a painter’s paradise, unmarred by commercial development.
The popularity of plein air painting spread from France in the mid-Nineteenth Century and spawned numerous art colonies on both coasts. Henry Ward Ranger founded the Lyme Colony, which was later dominated by Childe Hassam and other Impressionists who, in 1914 established the Lyme Art Association. Many art colonies sprang up along the California coast, the most famous south of Los Angeles at Laguna Beach, flourished at nearly the same time as the Lyme Colony.
PAPA links to that colony are through Roy Rose (grandnephew of noted California Impressionist Guy Rose), who encouraged Denise Burns to found an organization for contemporary plein air painters. Burns handpicked 20 artists to participate in the first annual Plein Air Painters Festival in 1986. The success of that show has been repeated annually at the Avalon Casino as the Catalina Plein Air Exhibition and Sale, one of the most successful art events in the country.
An interesting footnote to the PAPA’s early California roots and the Lyme Art Colony: In 2000, the Florence Griswold Museum (adjacent to the Lyme Art Association) mounted an exhibition titled, “The California Impressionists at Laguna,” that looked at the relationships between the California and Connecticut colonies. Among the artists represented was Guy Rose (1865-1925). Two previous exhibitions with that common theme were, in 1997, “East Meets West: American Impressionism” at the Fleischer Museum, Scottsdale, Ariz., and in 1999 at the Laguna Art Museum, “Colonies of American Impressionism: Cos Cob, Old Lyme, Shinnecock and Laguna Beach.”
The Lyme Art Association is at 90 Lyme Street. For information, call 860-434-7802.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm